Archive for the ‘Life and Ministry’ Category

I drafted this to be posted last Monday.  Obviously it did not get posted and many of you may know that it was a matter of circumstance (or consequence?) that kept it in the ether world for another week.  Since that time more circumstances have hit the national and world stage and at the same time struck close to home here in Northwestern Ohio.  Circumstances, they pummel us from every side.  I sit here with my broken leg propped up and my broken heart in the hands of God, knowing that none of these circumstances can separate me from my identity.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,

“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39

Practically Hupomone

A friend of my paid me a great compliment and asked me a personal question.  “How do you stay the same as the world happens around you.  So many people I know turn cynical.  You are always kind and ready to help.”  I have to admit unfortunately I gave this person the wrong answer.  It focused on the situation at hand and not on my identity in Jesus Christ.  Why did I give the wrong answer?  Why didn’t I intuitively know what the correct answer was.  I pondered this over the last few days.  I absolutely believe that this question came to me through my friend by the hand of God. My friend did not realize that the question and the observance behind it answered a question that I have been placing before God for some time.  What is the value of this idea, these disciplines that you have placed so strongly in me?  What is practically speaking Hupomone Living?

So here is the answer (and I will email a copy of this to the person in question).

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and  increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. Colossian 1:9-12

Paul is brilliant here.  This passage contains a prayer, direction, promise and thanksgiving.  We find in this passage the core of Hupomone.

The prayer (for ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ) is that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will not as the world (are even the church) sees it but through the lens of Spiritual wisdom and understanding as only comes from regular interaction with the Holy Spirit.

The direction is that we walk in a manner worthy of Lord.  As a young man my constant question of God was “What can I get away with, how far can I go without having your hammer drop on me?”.  This led me far from Hupomone living.  It was only when I began to see Him and ask, “What can I do that will be “in a manner worthy” of You Lord.” “What can I do today to please You.” Paul fleshed this out later in Colossians but just coming to the place of asking the question, praying the question is a big step in the right direction.  It begins to eliminate our reaction to circumstance in favor of our submission to God.

The promise is two-fold.  The implicit promise is that when we truly pursue the Hupomone life we will please Him, bear fruit, increase in our knowledge of Him and be strengthened, not according to our understanding or our circumstances but in accordance with His own.  As we pursue him, he pursues us.  It is the crazy train of our relationship with God but in a good way.  This leads to joyously giving thanks to God, not as a result of circumstances but as a result of relationship and identity and on this rests the explicit promise, we ARE qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints of Light.  The rest of the passage references our future, but all of that is based on His past,
“Father, who has qualified us..”  Paul goes on to say “for He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  It is on this that Hupomone living rests.  We are not here to react to circumstances, we are here to walk worthy, please Him, bear fruit, be strengthened and to live as those qualified by God to be heirs along with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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Circumstance

  1. a fact or condition connected with or relevant to an event or action.
    “we wanted to marry but circumstances didn’t permit”
    synonyms: situation, conditions, state of affairs, position;
  2. one’s state of financial or material welfare.
    “the artists are living in reduced circumstances”
    synonyms: financial position, lot, lifestyle;

We recently found ourselves through a series of conditions and facts (circumstances) short of the money that we needed to pay our bills.  To be truthful, some of the conditions were not avoidable, but some of them were of our own making.  I knew that when I examined the situation more closely we were going to find ourselves several hundred dollars short of the money that we needed to be current.  To make matters worse Allana was not really happy about a recent major purchase that I had made.  I was looking at having to tell her that now we were going to 1) be late on our bills and 2) really tighten up to get caught up, uncomfortably so.  There we have circumstances in a nutshell.  They are rarely simple.  They are often a mix of the unavoidable, poor decisions, right decisions with consequences and all the emotion and attitudes that human beings are prone too.  While this is not a piece on the theology of tithing, we have committed to that standard of giving.  Circumstances dictated that I should hold off on my tithe until we were caught up.  As I prayed over this situation the word hupomone (Biblical Perseverance) kept coming back to me.  All the cute Bible studies and all the nice character analysis are meaningless if hupomone does not impact my life where the rubber hits the road.  It is in the daily decisions and choices we make in the midst of circumstances that we choose the hupomone life.  Long story short I paid the tithe first as I knew that I should.  Then I went to look and see how bad it really was so that I could tell Allana.  As I surveyed our accounts, one that I rarely look at because I utilize it solely to pay the mortgage had several hundred extra dollars in it.  Believing it was an error I called the bank and they confirmed that I had received a refund from a miscalculation in the origination of our mortgage.  Bills paid with extra to spare.  The temptation is to say, even if I had not paid the tithe, the money still would have been there.  Perhaps that is true but hupomone living transcends circumstances.  The real victory is Spiritual not financial.  The flip side of it is that even if the extra money had not been provided and we ended up late and tight, the real victory is Spiritual not financial.  Hupomone living is about making choices guided by the Holy Spirit and based in the Word of God.  It is about living in our identity as children of God.

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:11-13

Paul did not allow his circumstances to dictate his identity.  This is at the core of the hupomone life.  Onesimus was sent home as a runaway slave but his identity was a brother in Christ.  David was a shepherd boy, the least among his brothers, but his identity was the anointed king of Israel.  Hebrews 11 walks through a litany of hupomone men and women (study to come from Allana and her True Beauty Group). In His home town those who knew him spoke out of his circumstances and it blinded them to Jesus’ identity as the only begotten son of God.  The core nature of the hupomone lifestyle transcends circumstances.  It rests on the rock of Christ’s identity.  This is what anchors the house of the wise man and its lack causes the foolish man’s house to fall into the shifting sands.   Each of these men walked through the fires of circumstance, the facts and conditions that stood in the face of God’s will for their lives.   They were not perfect (with the exception of Jesus) but they trusted God and not circumstance.

 

 

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I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. Philemon 1:4-7

Philemon,  I have to wonder if it is the least read of all the books of the New Testament.  It is unfortunate because it contains one of the most beautiful stories of redemption and reconciliation ever.  The story centers around three men, Paul the Apostle, Onesimus the slave and our subject today Philemon.  Philemon was a leader of the church that met in his home.  This was typical of the early church.  He was also a slave owner, specifically he owned a slave named Onesimus.

Strangely enough we are not going to focus on the theme of the letter, instead we are going to take a quick look at the man and the qualities that I find qualify him as a hupomone man.

People pray for him – Specifically in this case Paul.  However if the Apostle Paul remembered Philemon in his prayers I choose to assume that others were also. A true hupmone man inspires prayer by the example that he leads.

Paul’s words are very specific here.  “I always thank God AS I remember you…”  We might make the mistake of thinking that Paul here is referring to a prayer of thanksgiving for this wonderful man of God.  There would be nothing wrong with this but it is not what he is saying.  Paul is praying for Philemon as he continues his hupomone ministry in Colosse.

The placement of this phrase immediately following the greeting speaks of the importance that he knows Philemon places on this subject.  The hupomone man values prayer.  He values a life of constant communication with God (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and in this particular case he values the prayers of others on his behalf.

People talk about him – People talk about the hupomone man.  They don’t talk about the amazing “things” he has accomplished.  They don’t talk about all the books he has written.  They don’t even talk about the incredible ministry that he has built.  “I hear about your love for God’s holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus…”  They talk about his love for people and his faith in Jesus.  Now don’t get me wrong all of the hupomone men that we have discussed over the last few years in this blog were men of action, but it is the heart and soul that defines hupomone, not the results of that heart and soul.

He is willing to collaborate – Partnership comes naturally to the hupomone man. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. The Holy Spirit cultivates collaboration among God’s people, very often among people very dissimilar or with competing priorities.  Consider the struggles of Paul and Barnabas, the motley crew of the twelve disciples.  Jonathon’s future clashed directly with the anointing on David.  The spies at Jericho and Rahab had so little in common yet together they brought down a city and brought forth the Messiah!  These collaborations serve to deepen our understanding of the faith.

He cultivates joy and encouragement – If the joy of the Lord is his strength, the hupomone man likes to spread his strength around. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement. It is the essence of the Holy Spirit flowing out of him to those around that extinguishes fear with encouragement that is not tied to circumstances but to the source of all hupomone, God Himself.

He refreshes – The word that Paul uses here is the same word that is used to quote Jesus when he said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.  The hupomone man is quite simply allowing the very basic qualities of his Lord and Savior flow out of him.  He calls out to those around him to cease their futile labors. Anapaow is an emphasized form of the Greek word for pause.  Literally it is an “up pause”.  The presence of a hupomone man brings “up pause”.

Paul gives us a snapshot of the hupomone man.  It is the mirror for Philemon to look into as he stepped into a personal and cultural challenge.  Onesimus, his slave/property had run away.  Potentially he had stolen from Philemon as well.  Somehow this run-away slave met up with Paul in Rome.  Onesimus became a brother in the faith and told Paul what had occurred.  Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon instigating a journey in faith and hupomone living for both of them.  Scripture leaves us to our own interpretation of the outcome of the journey, but church tradition tells us that some years later Philemon and Onesimus are martyred side by side proclaiming the Gospel message and establishing them both as hupomone men.

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“The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me – the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day – and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.” 2 Timothy 1:16-18

Everything that we know from the Bible about Onesiphorus is in 2 Timothy.  This is significant because Paul knew that his execution was near when he wrote this final epistle of encouragement to Timothy.  Orthodox tradition tells us that Onesiphorus was one of the 70 disciples sent out by Jesus.  These men were the second tier of intimates to Jesus after the twelve. Roman Catholic and Orthodox tradition holds that he was martyred in a town called Parium not far from Ephesus where Timothy served God, leading the church in that pagan city.

While we do not have a lot of details, Paul tells us volumes about this man Onesiphorus.  When I read these verses the picture of a Hupomone Man comes into focus.  Paul actually begins this passage with comments on two men who were not Hupomone men. When the going got tough in Rome Phygelus and Hermogenes got going….out of Rome or at least away from Paul.  Onesiphorus on the other hand “eagerly searched” for Paul knowing the difficult circumstances that Paul was in and the very real danger that association with Paul brought during this time.  This is the nature of the Hupomone man.  As God has brought me to study this idea I have found that by example in Scripture it far transcends the simple definition.

steadfastness, constancy, endurance;
in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings;
patiently, and steadfastly;
a patient, steadfast waiting for;
a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance

Unfortunately the concept has been too often hijacked to mean some kind of groaning endurance as we wait to be taken to heaven.  This is not what we find in Onesiphorus.  So let’s walk backward through this brief exposition on a hupomone man.

  1.  Eager

The hupomone man is eager to serve.  He understands the greatest commandments as Jesus taught them in Matthew 22,

“And He said to him, YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” 

This makes him eager to serve, eager to follow the hand of God wherever it leads, whether into the streets of poverty, the halls of power or simply to the side of a suffering fellow follower of Jesus.  Perhaps it is with Onesiphorus in mind that Paul penned this description of love, ” does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,” 1 Corinthians 13:5  The eagerness of the hupomone man is not born of self-interest.  Onesiphorus gained nothing by seeking out Paul.  In fact in may have begun the series of events that would lead to his martyrdom.  What do we search for eagerly?

2.  Unashamed

The hupomone Man is unashamed of the truth that has been entrusted to God’s people.  Onesiphorus was unashamed of the Gospel nor of the chains and danger that it brought.  There is a certain pride that is the hallmark of the hupomone man.  It is a pride born of the understanding of our position as Children of God.  It is a pride born of 1 Corinthians 13 love and grounded in the great commandments.  Paul raises up the relatively unknown man of God to Timothy, an example of the exhortation, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, ” 1 Timothy 1:8

3.  Refreshing

The Hupomone Man is a breath of fresh air in a dank and room, a ray of light shining in the darkness.  When one perseveres through hard times in the abundance of Christ there is an aura of refreshment that permeates the situation.  What amazing testament to this little known man of God, “for he often refreshed me…”.  This is a quality that Onesiphorus brought to even the most difficult situations.  It is the very nature of Jesus Christ shining through his children empowered by the Holy Spirit, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10.

Paul ends this passage about Onesiphorus with “and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.”  The hupomone man carries his qualities wherever he goes.  It did not matter whether he was on the streets of Ephesus or in the halls of power in Rome comforting Paul as the specter of execution hovered nearby, Onesiphorus was eager to serve, unashamed of the Gospel and brought refreshment to those around him.

 

 

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A Facebook Post from Allana:15747885_10157951910710282_1166937839466352526_n

Lifelong commitment is not what everyone thinks it is. It’s not waking up early every morning to make breakfast and eat together. It’s not cuddling in bed together until both of you peacefully fall asleep. It’s not a clean home and a homemade meal every day.
It’s someone who steals all the covers. It’s sometimes slammed doors, and a few harsh words, disagreeing, and the silent treatment until your hearts heal. Then…forgiveness!
It’s coming home to the same person everyday that you know loves and cares about you, in spite of and because of who you are. It’s laughing about the one time you accidentally did something stupid. It’s about dirty laundry and unmade beds without finger pointing. It’s about helping each other with the hard work of life! It’s about swallowing the nagging words instead of saying them out loud.
It’s about eating the cheapest and easiest meal you can make and sitting down together at 10 p.m. to eat because you both had a crazy day. It’s when you have an emotional breakdown, and your love lays with you and holds you and tells you everything is going to be okay, and you believe them. It’s when “Netflix and chill” literally means you watch Netflix and hang out. It’s about still loving someone even though sometimes they make you absolutely insane.
Living with the person you love is not perfect, and sometimes it’s hard, but it’s amazing and comforting and one of the best things you’ll ever experience.
Go ahead and share a picture of the person you love and copy and paste this, make their day.
I love this picture of Samuel Guidry it is perfect. a pic of Sami showing off the purity rings that Sam got her for her 16th bday.

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FIFM

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 2 Timothy 1:6

God spoke this verse to Allana and I back in 2003.  We had only been together a couple of years.  These were difficult years.  Allana had to adjust to being married, having two sons and caring for our little Sami.  Chayla was born in April and to top it off I was working crazy hours.  In the midst of all of that God was doing incredible things in our lives.  Fan Into Flame Ministries was born out of that crucible.  The idea would grow and be tempered over the years by moments of spirit led engagement and by intense personal suffering.  For Allana these days bore the fruit of True Beauty.  For me the focus became Hupomone (because I am a geek and Greek is cool) or Patience, Endurance, Perseverance.  Yet still, it continued to be at the core, the call to Fan Into Flame that gift, in ourselves and in others.

Let’s back track a little.

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember * you in my prayers night and day, 4 longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.

Paul takes Timothy down memory lane for a minute.  He reminds him that he is Paul’s son in the faith.  Why does Paul do this?  He wants Timothy to remember a very special moment in his life, the moment that he received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  The moment that God’s Gift was so graciously bestowed on a young man.  I have to wonder if Timothy didn’t tear up a little, thinking of his father in the faith facing death in Rome.  Perhaps he felt a little shame that the difficulties of ministry in Ephesus had worn him down.  Yet Paul tears all that away.  Striking to the core of Hupomone, without using the word, “Fan into flame the gift of God…”  There is nothing else that we can do to endure as children of God.

I have actually heard this verse taught as a call to utilize those very special and individual gifts that God has bestowed on each one of us.  However the context of the verses that follow this verse (not that He doesn’t desire each of us to serve him with all our gifts) make it clear that Paul is talking about one gift.  I will designate it the Gift.  The cool thing is that this Gift is the same for us all and yet manifests itself very differently in each of us.

7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

There it is, the Gift.  It is nothing less than God Himself given to each of us that believe and confess.  It is this Gift that makes us bold endowing us with power, love and self-discipline.  It is a special power available only through Jesus Christ.  It is power not as the world gives, or recognizes power.  It is the power to testify of Jesus and to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is power that is inextricably joined to love.  Indeed 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that power without love is vain and useless.

8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.

This Gift is one that empowers without limit, motivates in love and operates with self-discipline even as Christ Himself cried out in Gethsemane, “39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39  In a moment that the whole world around Him saw as the greatest weakness, Jesus exploded the chains of sin and death with the greatest demonstration of power, motivated by love and operating in Self-discipline as only God himself could.

9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

HE HAS SAVED US!  And called us by grace, a grace that is eternal.  But he did not just call us to a holy life and leave us to our own pitiful attempts.  He provided the Gift.  It is the Gift of revealed Grace.  It is the Gift of revealed Life Eternal.  It is the Gift of the Truth, the Gift of the Good News and Great Joy which shall be to all People.  It is the Gift that endows us with the same power that confounded the law and threw the world into confusion.  How foolish would we be not to fan THAT GIFT into flame in our lives.

 

 

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PurposeEzekiel was one far out dude.  I could focus on the wheels, sing about dem dry bones or wish that I could see the beasts of his prophecy in the zoo but I want to step away from the details of Ezekiel’s message.  Let’s focus on an aspect of Ezekiel’s life that make’s him another Hupomone Man.

Ezekiel was from a priestly family and like Daniel he was taken from his home in Israel and brought to Babylon.  His family was probably prominent and influential.  Ryrie places him among the many hostages that Nebuchadnezzar took to ensure the cooperation of his newly conquered land.  Unlike Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel prophesied to the Jews in Babylon.

As I read through Ezekiel this time around, I really tried to keep the words of the prophecies given to him by God out of focus.  I did not want to get caught up in the wonder and beautiful detail of Ezekiel’s dreams.  I really wanted to get a feel for Ezekiel the man.  This is perhaps most difficult to do with Ezekiel among those whom we term the Major Prophets as there is minimal historical detail.  With the details out of focus I began to notice a recurring phrase:  “Then you will know that I am the Lord”.  It takes some different forms, “and then you shall know that I am the Lord.”  The Holy Spirit whispered in my ear, “Hupomone Men have purpose.”.  Honestly it took me a bit to make the connection (I probably could have used Ezekiel’s help….connecting the bones of the thought together….ok ouch that was bad).

Ezekiel completely understood the purpose of everything that he said and did.  Speaking for God is not an abstract activity.  The life of the Hupomone Man is not an abstract activity.  It has purpose.  It really has one overarching purpose.  That purpose is to act, speak, write…to live in such a way that those around you can “know that He is the Lord.”  Peter put it this way, “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies, sot that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” 1 Peter 4:11

As Hupomone Men we can be sure that everything that happens in our lives is some how contributing to this purpose, either for ourselves or for those around us.  Ezekiel deeply understood this even as his wife passed away, there was purpose. ( I deal more with this particular story here. ) This is all part of our great assurance that God is in control.  We cannot, we must not allow circumstances to impinge on this great Peace that we have as children of God.  Ezekiel never lost sight of his purpose through all of the turmoil, through all the circumstances of his life.  He demonstrated Major Endurance and certainly earned the title of Hupomone Man.

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